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Gas explosions: Our homes not safe anymore - EDITORIAL

16 December 2021 12:23 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Committees, expert committees and parliamentary consultative committees notwithstanding, the gas-linked explosions are continuing while a sense of fear and anxiety is spreading across the country with neither ministers nor state ministers or the two domestic gas suppliers accepting the responsibility for this appalling situation.


Fighting shy of taking responsibility when something dreadful occurs is nothing unusual among Sri Lanka’s politicians and bureaucrats. Consider for instance the recent incidents, which have caused so much misery and heartache to so many, such as the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide attacks; the sugar, palm oil and garlic scams, which caused huge losses to the government and the people of this country and the X-Press Pearl-related environmental disaster with the stricken vessel not only leaking nitric acid but also covering the beaches in Negombo with thousands of plastic pellets resulting in the loss of livelihoods of thousands of fisher-folk, who have still not been paid any compensation. Probably linked to this disaster were the nine dolphin carcasses washed ashore at Alampil in Mullaitivu last Thursday with plastic pellets found in their stomachs during the postmortem examination and the dilemma caused by the shipload of contaminated Chinese fertilizer, which led to the People’s Bank being blacklisted and Chinese fertilizer company threatening to institute legal action by way of arbitration in Singapore claiming compensation for the loss incurred by the Sri Lankan government’s refusal to unload this consignment of fertilizer. 


In the event the ruling favours the Chinese company, the penalty would be too huge to contemplate. This had resulted from the short-sighted decision to impose an arbitrary ban on the import and use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides and the failed attempt to enforce a change to organic fertilizer. The point we are trying to make is that in all these instances the loss will have to be paid directly or indirectly by the people of this country and not from the personal funds of the person or persons responsible for the mess and muddle caused by rash and impulsive decisions. 


However, the continuing saga of gas-linked explosions and the ambiguous statements made by the government and the two gas suppliers have compelled householders to change over to alternative forms of cooking with those who could afford switching to electrical appliances while others are reverting to kerosene or firewood.
These days, it is not the chirping of birds, that greet those who wake up in the morning to begin the usual household chores, but fear and trepidation as to what might happen when they switch on the kitchen light or the gas stove. Will they end up as a burnt sacrifice is probably what is in their minds? Under these trying circumstances, when even their homes are no longer safe, to whom can consumers turn to for assurance?


Meanwhile, another ‘explosion’ rocked Parliament last Friday when after weeks of urging the government to table the agreement signed with the American-based New Fortress Energy (NFE); the controversial document in shocking detail was tabled in Parliament, but surprisingly it was not by Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa or subject Minister Gamini Lokuge, but by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Leader and People’s Power parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake. 


Swamped with requests from MPs, including Cabinet Ministers, for copies of the agreement, Mr. Dissanayake told the media that it was from him that many Cabinet Ministers came to know about the contents of the agreement which had not been presented to the Cabinet, let alone Parliament.
He pointed out that though the Cabinet Paper sought approval for signing the agreement with NFE, it had in fact been signed on September 17, 2021 with NFE Sri Lanka Power Holdings LLC by Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle on behalf of the Government. However, it is not known how this Limited Liability Company came to be registered in Wilmington, Delaware, USA while a clause in the agreement states that for a period of two years beginning from the signing date and that only with the prior written consent of the other Party could disclosures be made to any Person.


“How can they decide not to disclose the contents of an agreement with regard to a property that belongs to the people of this country? It has not been bestowed on the Finance Minister or the Ministry Secretary by way of a deed,” Mr. Dissanayake said.
Governance or the administration of a country is in no way a matter of trial and error. It has to be based on principle-centered, properly thought-out and properly prepared plans and policies. If not the result is bound to be chaos, which the country and its citizens could ill afford.


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